The Celts: A Very Short Introduction

By Barry Cunliffe | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
All things to all men

Some years ago, after writing a book, The Celtic World, I received a letter from an American. He was, he said, an alcoholic and it had worried him but having read of the Celtic love of wine – a story told by the Classical writer Athenaeus of the Gauls – he was much reassured. His grandparents had been Celts from Scotland and his behaviour was thus explained: it was part of his Celticness and he would henceforth be proud of it. Many reading this might find it an innocuous story, and might indeed gain some reassurance for their own occasional overindulgences, but others might become apoplectic seeing in it yet further evidence of the insidious Celtic myth perpetuated by popular books. One academic member of this camp has even gone so far as to suggest that some authors deliberately use the word ‘Celtic’ in book titles to boost sales. Could there be something in this? I have before me a glossy flyer from a book club inviting members to join ‘A Celtic Odyssey’ embracing ‘The Beauty and Wonder of a Lost Civilization’ and to choose from a range of conflations with such alluring titles as Celtic Wisdom Tarot Pack, Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World, The Celtic Tree Oracle, and Celtic Body Decoration Kit. Should you wish to indulge the odyssey still further your local shops might offer Celtic jewellery or instructions for creating Celtic knotwork. And try the telephone directory, particularly in Atlantic-facing parts of the British Isles, to see how many commercial enterprises offer ‘Celtic’ services. Celts are well and

-1-

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